Last fall, more than 510 students spent time in isolation or quarantine—nearly one-third of Dordt’s student body.
Although they have lessened, periods of isolation and quarantine are still with us during the spring semester as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. As of early March, 52 students have been in isolation or quarantine already this semester.
For students who must quarantine—a practice that keeps those who might have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus away from others—being away from friends, taking online courses, and spending time by themselves hasn’t been easy. Still, Dordt students and staff have found ways to make the most of what can be a lonely, worrisome time. Campus Ministries is providing pastoral care to students through technology. Students are finding ways to entertain themselves, including spending time with the Lord, taking up new hobbies, and creating a quarantine bucket list. Some have creatively built new communities with those down the hall who are also in quarantine and making the most of their quarantine time with their roommates.
Sam Ashmore and Carolyn Shonkwiler
For the past five months, Campus Pastor Sam Ashmore has spent hours on the phone with students in quarantine, calling each of them. Being isolated for seven, 10, or even 14 days can be difficult, so Ashmore checks up on how students are doing emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
“I ask, ‘How are classes? How’s your heart? How’s your mind?’” says Ashmore. “But the main purpose behind the call is to pray with the student. We pray for whatever the student needs at that moment, whether that be, ‘Man, studies are really hard in quarantine,’ or, ‘I’m really bored and getting lonely.’”
In addition to the regular phone calls to students, the Campus Ministries staff has developed a “Quarantine and Isolation Resources” page, which Ashmore sends to every student who starts quarantine. The page contains a number of resources, including wellness tips for defending well-being during quarantine and isolation as well as a link to RightNow Media, the biggest Bible study library in the world.
“We have a resource that deals with identity—a reminder to students that God calls them his son or daughter. There’s a form where students can submit prayer requests, too,” says Ashmore.
In addition, Campus Ministries offers a Zoom prayer time with Pastoral Care Assistant Angela Perigo on Mondays at 9 a.m., a chance to hang out virtually with Director of Campus Ministries and Worship Arts Dr. Jeremy Perigo on Tuesdays at 11:45 a.m., a Zoom Bible study with Ashmore on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., and a virtual lunch with Pastoral Care Assistant Gail Ashmore at 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
Not all quarantined students take advantage of the Zoom calls, but students tell Ashmore that they appreciate having the option to log on if they want.
“Students have told me that, even if they don’t log onto the Zoom calls, it’s nice to know that someone is there for them—that someone cares,” says Ashmore.
Campus Ministries staff also hired Carolyn Shonkwiler, a junior psychology and social work major, whose work study job is to offer peer support and encouragement to these students. She handwrites letters of encouragement—typically, five to 10 letters a day, but during one stretch of time she wrote 20 to 40 letters a day. She also baked chocolate chip cookies for students.
“This work study job has provided an opportunity to serve in a tangible way,” she says. “I think it’s important to have someone reach out and recognize that going through quarantine is hard and that we see them—that they are still part of Dordt.”
Zane Gunter awoke from an afternoon nap one day to find his roommate packing a bag to head home to quarantine.
“I found, a few minutes later, that I’d need to quarantine as well. My initial reaction was disbelief—it felt surreal, because I’d known people who’d been in quarantine, but I couldn’t believe that I was having to do it myself.”
Gunter is a wide receiver on the football team, so he immediately let his coaches know. He stayed in his room until he got a phone call from Student Services, who walked him through details of what to do next and let him know that he would be quarantining in West Hall.
“In some ways, quarantining on-campus was almost harder, because I knew my friends and teammates were nearby, and I could see them walking outside, but I couldn’t interact with them. I felt like I was missing out,” he says.
Gunter had to quarantine before the football season began, so he didn’t miss any games. He also didn’t miss any team meetings because he could Zoom in. But he missed practice and still had to find ways to work out in his West Hall dorm room.
“They gave me some resistance bands that I could use during quarantine, which was helpful, because I could do a variety of workouts with them,” he says. “Otherwise, being in a dorm room, I was limited. If I wanted to run, I could probably take about three steps across the room—I had to do that a couple hundred times to get a decent workout.”
As someone who loves following a schedule, Gunter found ways to stay busy during the day. In the morning, he woke up and ate breakfast. He made a pot of French press coffee, read a book, or watched a sermon. Then he worked on assignments or attended classes. He ate lunch and, for the rest of the afternoon, worked on schoolwork—trying his best to complete it all before dinner.
“And once dinner came, I had the rest of the evening to do a workout, log onto our football meetings, read, or watch a video,” he says.
What he missed most was spending time with friends and family.
“I had FaceTime, text messages, and other ways to talk and interact with people, but since I wasn’t there in-person, that definitely was a struggle for me, just not being able to sit next to someone and have a conversation with them, or walk down the hall and see people,” he says.
Despite the loneliness and isolation, he grew to appreciate the small ways that he was taken care of during quarantine.
“Campus Ministries made sure that I was doing well and prayed over me. I had letters written to me. Dining Services made sure that we had three meals a day, and they gave us a surplus of food, which I was super grateful for,” says Gunter. “It was really great how Dordt was persistent and intentional with ensuring that students in quarantine were taken care of and engaged—that they were doing well mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”
The first thing Gunter did when he got out of quarantine? He took a walk and then took a group of friends to Culver’s.
“It felt so good to be around people again,” he says.
In late August, six roommates were excited to move into Southview 201 and begin their junior year, especially after the previous semester had transitioned to online courses in mid-March. Five of the six roommates had moved in when one roommate, Anmarie Stuit, found out that she had Covid-19. She headed home to Hospers, Iowa, to isolate, thankful that her symptoms weren’t severe. Still, she worried about her roommates.
“When I found out I had Covid-19, I immediately felt guilty and even a little embarrassed. It was the beginning of the school year, and I had just sentenced my roommates to two weeks of quarantine,” she says.
One roommate, Rachel Heynen, hadn’t been exposed, so she commuted from her parents’ home in Sheldon, Iowa, for the start of the semester. The other four roommates would normally need to quarantine by themselves, but Dordt staff approached them with an idea: what if they quarantined together in Southview 201 instead?
Grace Dille had been nervous about the prospect of quarantining for the first two weeks of class—would she do okay academically, and how would she handle being alone for that long?
“When I found out that our room could quarantine together, I was relieved and excited to make some more memories with some of my closest friends,” she says.
So, the girls sequestered themselves in their apartment and prepared to start the new academic year with online classes.
“It was a little stressful at first because you have to notify your professors and any extracurriculars about your situation and get information on how each professor does their class online. After a couple days we got into a groove,” says Riley VanHulzen. “Some of us were actually in the same classes, so we could Zoom into class together, which was really nice. There are enough rooms in our apartment that we never really bothered each other too much!”
In addition to keeping up with their classwork, the four roommates found ways to entertain themselves. They created a quarantine bucket list, which included making cookies and puppy chow, doing ab workouts—“to make up for the cookies and puppy chow,” laughs Makayla De Young—reading a devotional together, watching their favorite Disney movies, and more.
“Four girls can do a 1,000-piece puzzle in about four hours when in quarantine. I think that was honestly one of our greatest accomplishments; we even glued it and hung it on our wall,” says VanHulzen.
The roommates took turns making meals, did homework together, and found ways to encourage one another. They learned about each other’s strengths and challenges.
And then, just like that, quarantine came to an end.
“At midnight the day our quarantine ended, we all ran outside in our blankets and just walked around campus for a while. It might sound like a weird thing to do, but it was so nice just to be out on campus again, and we were excited,” says VanHulzen.
Even though quarantining at the beginning of the semester wasn’t ideal, Dille is grateful she had a chance to spend time with her roommates.
“I was reminded about how blessed I am to have these roommates I call friends,” says Dille. “They certainly made the two-week lockdown a time to remember.”
Daniel Klassen and Derek De Jong
When Daniel Klassen’s roommate went from perfectly fine to sick within 24 hours, Klassen knew it was a matter of time before he’d find out that his roommate had Covid-19. He also knew that he would be contact-traced and need to quarantine–and that there was nothing he could do about it.
“I was kind of upset at first, because I really didn’t want to go,” he recalls. “But I found that I could self-motivate, and I got ahead on a lot of homework. Sophomore year for engineers is pretty busy, so having time to focus on my homework was helpful.”
At around that same time, Derek De Jong found out that his girlfriend had tested positive for Covid-19. Before Student Services reached out to contact him, he decided to self-isolate, doing Zoom classes for a day before Learning Community Area Coordinator Sam Roskamp picked him up and took him to a nearby hotel to quarantine.
“For a while, I wasn’t happy about being in quarantine, because I wanted to be in classes and see my friends. But a part of me realized that I needed a break, too,” he says. “School has been a bit draining this year, and I hadn’t had a break since I’d arrived on campus two weeks before classes started, because I’m a resident assistant (RA).”
Every day, Dordt Athletics delivered meals to those in quarantine. When there was a knock on his door, Klassen went to grab his meal.
“I looked down the hall, and at that moment Derek was reaching down to grab his bag of food. I’m like, ‘Hey, Derek, what’s up?’” laughs Klassen.
Neither Klassen nor De Jong realized the other was in quarantine, let alone just down the hall from one another.
“It was cool,” says De Jong. “We’re pretty good friends. We’re both engineering majors, so we knew each other from class, and we play intramural basketball together.”
Before quarantine, De Jong and Klassen did their engineering homework with a large group. Now, instead of being on their own to complete homework during quarantine, De Jong and Klassen started meeting six feet apart in the hotel hallway.
“It was nice to find out that I had a friend in the building and that I could see him every once-in-a-while,” says De Jong.
Quarantine taught them the importance of self-discipline in order to accomplish tasks. They also came to realize how important in-person interaction is to them.
“I started to miss people so much. I’m from a big family, so I’ve never been by myself for that long. I missed going to meals with my friends and being able to talk,” says Klassen.
“Being an RA, I missed all my residents,” says De Jong. “I wished I could just walk down the hall and say hi to everyone. So, it was a blessing to see that Dan was down the hall from me.”
When their quarantine was up and they could return to campus, De Jong sent a Snapchat to his basketball buddies.
“I asked, ‘Hey, can we play basketball? I’m really dying to get moving,’” says De Jong.
“I’m in that group chat, too, and I definitely wanted to join in. I missed basketball, being active with friends, and actually hanging out. I’m just glad we’re back, and I hope we don’t get contact-traced again,” laughs Klassen.
Kaysha Steiger, a senior business administration major, had to quarantine not once, but two times during the fall semester.
The first time she went into quarantine, she felt unwell. After taking a Covid-19 test, she headed home to Hull, Iowa, to quarantine in her parents’ basement.
“The first day was a Sunday, which I spent relaxing and getting settled. After that, I tried to keep a similar schedule as I did on campus with class and homework,” she says.
She joined her classes via Zoom or Teams in the morning and then worked on homework in the afternoon and evening. Steiger also called and FaceTimed her friends and family before heading to bed—much earlier than she typically did on campus.
“I ‘shared’ mealtimes with my parents as they ate their supper upstairs; I ate mine downstairs, and we FaceTimed so we could eat some meals together and keep some regularity,” says Steiger.
That first quarantine only lasted a few days since Steiger ended up testing negative for Covid-19, but it was enough time for her to want to be back on campus.
“I missed spending time in my apartment with my roommates, whether it was gathering for a meal or sharing in late night talks. I also missed the worship experiences on campus. While chapel is great on Livestream, it’s much better in person. Although Dordt has done a fantastic job of making online class accommodations, I still would much rather attend class in person where I can get more out of the class lectures.”
She was even more disappointed when she had to quarantine for a second time during the semester. Again, she had Covid-19-like symptoms, got tested, and went into quarantine. Days into quarantine, she found out that, once again, she had tested negative.
It is hard to be constantly wondering if you have Covid-19. Steiger found herself thinking, “Was it worth it? Why did I go through this if I tested negative?”
“I know that both times I did not feel well and had symptoms that I typically do not have, though, so I knew I needed to take action. Going into quarantine was the thing I could do to love my neighbor and protect others.”
During her second quarantine, Steiger decided to be even more intentional with her time. One of her class assignments was to do a social media fast, which allowed her to focus on her homework and other responsibilities. It also gave her more time for restful activities such as reading or spending time in God’s Word.
“Quarantine allowed me to slow down for a few days, catch up on sleep, and be ready to go back into the busyness of college life,” she says.
Christianna Marcy, a junior elementary education major and a Kuyper scholar, was in the middle of sewing costumes for an upcoming theatre production when she found out that she had been exposed to the virus. Initially, she felt a range of emotions—shocked, frustrated, disappointed, scared.
“However, God also gave me an overwhelming sense of peace and joy,” she says.
When the Theatre Arts Department learned that Marcy was in quarantine, they brought her a sewing machine, patterns, thread, and fabric—everything she needed to continue her work remotely. “I was so grateful to be able to continue sewing,” she says.
She found other ways to make the time pass, too.
“Each morning, I would prepare my school space and get comfortable for one to five hours of Zoom classes or calls each day.”
In her free time, she painted, creating idyllic autumnal scenes of bright-colored trees lining a road to a cozy house. She learned calligraphy, and she tried to call or text three people each day. “I had so many wonderful conversations,” she says.
Quarantine gave Marcy plenty of time to reflect, and she came to realize how much work the faculty did so Dordt could have in-person classes this year. She even wrote a thank-you letter to President Erik Hoekstra.
“I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that the leadership, professors, cleaning staff, dining, athletics, and many more people worked so hard to put precautions in place,” she says. “Dordt University is special because of the people who go above and beyond to make sure we get to safely enjoy a semester together.”
She was especially grateful for Dordt Dining Services.
“They filled my heart and stomach with homey food. I looked forward to their meals, and they often surprised me with extra treats in the bags.”
Marcy says that quarantine taught her to rest in God’s goodness.
“I am more intentional in my personal time with God now. Allowing myself to rest helps me enjoy college to the full extent. I want to be able to live in the moment, because college life is full of wonderful surprises.”